Da Yanhe — My Wet Nurse

Da Yanhe, is my wet nurse. Her name is the name of her village where she was born, She is a childbride, Da Yanhe, is my wet nurse.
I am a landlord’s son; I am also Da Yanhe’s son Who has brought me up by breastfeeding me. Da Yanhe raises her family by raising me, And I have been raised by drinking your milk, Da Yanhe, my wet nurse.
Da Yanhe, the snow today reminds me of you: Your grass-covered grave covered with snow, Your withered tile-plant on the eaves of your closed house, Your plot of land of ten square chi mortgaged, Your stone bench grown with moss before your house, Da Yanhe, the snow I see today reminds me of you.
You embraced me in your arms and stroked me with your large hands; After you had the burning faggots ready, After you cleaned the soot on your apron, After you tasted whether the rice was well cooked, After you placed the dark sauce-bowl on the dark table, After you mended your sons’ clothes torn by thorns on the mountains, After you wrapped your youngest son’s hand wounded by a faggot-knife, After you nipped the lice one by one on your husband’s and sons’ clothes, After you picked up the first egg today, You embraced me in your arms and stroked me with your large hands.
I am a landlord’s son; After I had sulked all milk of you Da Yanhe, I was taken back to my own home by my parents. Alas! Da Yanhe, why did you weep?
I was now a new member of my own parents’ family! I felt the lacquered and cared furniture, I felt the golden patterns of the bed of my parents, I gazed at the board inscribed with Tianlunxule which I did not understand on the eaves, I felt the silk and pearly buttons of the new clothes I began to wear, I watched my strange sister in the arms of my mother, I sat on the lacquered bench equipped with a bowl of cinder, I ate the rice rolled for three times, But, I felt so strange and upset! Because I I was now a new member of my own parents’ family.
To make a living, Da Yanhe Started laboring with her arms that used to embrace me After she had used up her breast-milk; With a smile, she washed our clothes, With a smile, she went to the nearby pool with a basket of vegetables, With a smile, she minced the ice-covered radish, With a smile, she drew out the wheat dregs for pig food with her hands, With a smile, she fanned the fire in the stove on which pork was stewed, With a smile, she took the winnowing fan to the threshing ground      To insolate those beans and wheat, To make a living, Da Yanhe Started laboring with her arms that used to embrace me After she had used up her breast-milk.
Da Yanhe, deeply loved this son she breastfed; On festivals, for him, she busied herself cutting the sugared rice-lump, For him to stealthily visit her home near the village, For him to call her “ma” at her side, Da Yanhe put up the portrait of Guan Yunchang painted in fabulous color      On the wall of her kitchen,Da Yanhe would praise this son she breastfed to her neighborhood; Da Yanhe had a dream which couldn’t be told to others: In her dream, she enjoyed the wedding wine of her breastfed son, Sitting in the hall brilliant with red lanterns, She was dearly called “Ma” by her beautiful new daughter-in-law,………

Da Yanhe, deeply loved this son she breastfed! Da Yanhe died before she woke up from her dream. When she died, her breastfed son was not by her side, When she died, her husband who beat and criticized her also shed tears for her, Her own five sons, each in tears, When she died, she gently called her breastfed son’s name, Da Yanhe, has died, When she died, her breastfed son was not by her side.
Da Yanhe, gone in tears! With the insult of human life for some forty years, With numerous sufferings of being a slave, With a coffin bought with four yuan and some bunches of rice stalks, With some square feet of burial place, With a handful of money-ashes, Da Yanhe, she was gone in tears.
And this is what Da Yanhe did not know: Her drunken husband had died, Her first son became a bandit, Her second died in the smoke of gun-fire, And her third, fourth and fifth sons Living in the scolding of their masters or landlords. And I, I am writing a curse for this unjust world. When I return to my homeland after long drift, In the waist of the mountain and in the field, We feel closer than six or seven years ago when we brothers meet! This, this is for you, Da Yanhe in slumber You do not know this!
Da Yanhe, your breastfed son in prison today,Is writing a psalm for you, For your soul underground, For your outstretched hands that embraced me, For your lips that kissed me, For your dark and mild face, For your breasts that raised me, For your sons, my brothers, For all wet nurses like Da Yanhe and their sons On this vast land, For Da Yanhe who loved me as she loved her own sons.
Da Yanhe, I am your son Brought up by sulking your breast-milk, I respect you And love you!

Ai Qing (1910—1996), originally named Jiang Haicheng, was a native of Jinhua County, Zhejiang Province. In 1928, he was enrolled in the state-run West Lake Art School. In the next year, he went to study inParis, France. In 1932, he returned to China, and joined China’s Federation of the Leftwing Fine Artists. In the July of the same year, he was arrested. He was freed in 1935. he went to Yan’an in 1941. he was the editor-in-chief of The Poetic Journal (Yan’an edition). After 1949, he was deputy editor-in-chief of People’s Literature, vice chairman of Chinese Writers’ Association, vice president of the Center of Chinese Writingand a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. His major works include DYanhe, Towards the Sun, Torch, He Died in the Second Try, North, The Notice of Dawn, On the Sea Cape, The Song of Return, and Selected Poems of Ai Qing (collections of poems), etc. he was also the author the monographs On Poetics and Essays on New Art and Literature. His poems have been translated into dozens of foreign languages.                                                            (Tr. by Yang Xu)


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